Chicago Bulls Center Joakim Noah: Is He the 2nd Best Center in the NBA?

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IINovember 9, 2010

CLEVELAND - APRIL 19:  Joakim Noah #13  of the Chicago Bulls reacts after making a first quarter basket against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 19, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 112-102 to take a 2-0 series lead.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With 13 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks last night against the Denver Nuggets, it was just another day at the office for Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah.

Outside of the Magic's Dwight Howard, is there another center in the league you would rather have than Noah?

Often thought of as a wasted draft pick in his rookie season with the Bulls, Noah, through hard work and as much heart as any player in the league, has evolved into the Bull's second best player behind Derrick Rose, and maybe the second best big man in the league.

Who would you rather have?

You could argue there are not a smorgasbord of great centers in the league these days and you would be right.

There are no Olajuwon's, Ewings or David Robinsons roaming the post anymore. Even going back a few years ago you had Howard, along with Yao Ming, Tim Duncan and Shaq patrolling the middle.

But who is there today?

Yao has been injured and isn't the same player he used to be.

A lot of fans think LA's Andrew Bynum is the next great center, but he is too injury-prone. Until he proves he can hold up for a full season on a regular basis, you can't put him in the mix.

Another Andrew, Bogut of the Milwaukee Bucks, the former No. 1 pick in the draft, is a good player, but does he really thrill you or bring back memories of the greats of the game?

A lot of people really like Brook Lopez in New Jersey and there's a lot to like, but he lacks Noah's athleticism and rebounding skills, though he is a more skilled offensive player. I just think Noah is a more valuable asset to his team than Lopez is to his, as evidenced by New Jersey's record last year.

Chris Kaman with the Clippers has had some good numbers, but he's not strong or quick enough to be an elite center.

Atlanta's Al Horford is another guy in the conversation when fans talk about centers, but isn't he really a power forward and is he really better than Joakim Noah?

Noah is six for six so far this year with double-doubles in each game he has played including scoring 18 points along with 19 rebounds against the Thunder on opening night.

Last Friday against the Boston Celtics in Boston, he put up a 26 point, 13 rebound effort, helping take the game to overtime before the Bulls lost a hard fought contest.

That effort included a 10-10 from the free throw line, along with some 15 footers that Noah is starting to consistently put in the basket. His shot may not look pretty, but it's starting to find its mark when you leave him open.

Noah can also run the floor and handle the ball as well as any center in the league. He sometimes rebounds the ball and starts the fast break himself if he can't find an outlet guy, though that cost him on Friday in Boston when Kevin Garnett poked the ball away from behind.

That aside, who can forget his dramatic court-long dash against the Celtics two years ago in the playoffs with Paul Pierce chasing him where he threw the ball down before Pierce could catch him.

That's another thing about Noah. He's a winner. He was a part of two consecutive NCAA championship teams with Florida. With the Bulls, he has elevated his game and averaged 12.1 PPG along with 13.1 RPG in the playoffs, to go along with 2.4 assists and 1.8 blocks.

In addition to his improved jumper, Noah has refined his left-handed hook shot, and can put the ball on the floor and go to the basket and lay it up as well as any center in the league.

This year he's having a break-out season so far for the Bulls, averaging 15.7 PPG, 15.0 RPG (which leads the league) and 2.2 assists and 2.2 blocks.

Noah is so good that the Bulls refused to even consider putting him in a trade for Denver's Carmelo Anthony when his name came up in trade talks about possibly coming to the Bulls.

I'm not going to say he's a better player than Anthony because I would have to be crazy to say that, but I could say that he might be a more valuable player to this Bulls team than Anthony would be.

It's hard to find a good center in the league today, and it's hard to find a player with the unique characteristics that Noah brings to the table.

He goes all-out on every play. To say he hustles doesn't even come close to the effort he always puts out on the court. How many players can you say that about?

He also works at his game to make himself better. He built up his strength by lifting weights and putting on muscle so he wouldn't get pushed around in the paint.

He also has a keen awareness of how to play the game. He's a very good passer and has a nose for the ball, along with being a leader.

He was criticized early in his rookie season by former Bulls coach Scott Skiles for opening his mouth and saying what he thought was wrong with the team. Skiles thought a rookie should keep his mouth shut and not speak unless spoken to. Noah ended up being right about what was wrong with that team.

His game may not be the prettiest in the league, but it is one of the best, especially in the post.

Can you think of anyone better outside of Howard?